View Full Version : Dealing With Negativity

04-09-2004, 10:44 AM
Dealing With Negativity

As pool players, we must accept the fact that our experience at the table is a never-ending balance of positive and negative experiences. Every player, including Mosconi, Sigel, and Reyes have all missed easy shots that they should have made. They all have had to deal with the people that reminded them of it over and over. What separates us from them is the what they did with that when it came to process and file that experience in the memory banks. How we do that is essential to our outlook and our future performance.


There are two different types of players:

a) Positive Sponges
b) Negative Sponges

Most of us fit into, or have fit into the Negative Sponge category. Negative Sponges absorb the negative in every situation. ďEveryĒ means ďall inclusiveĒ. This is not done on purpose, it is mainly due to the way we are wired, and the result of our environment. We see the negative in the situation and absorb it, concentrate on it, and assist it in its breeding. By doing this we blind ourselves to the positive, completely blocking ourselves off to it, and even shunning it when it is presented to us.
Positive Sponges are the complete opposite. They tend to observe situations much more carefully, and only react when they have weighed and balanced the situation carefully. They are solution driven, and goal oriented. They deflect negativity in order to succeed. Negative Sponges deflect the positive to avoid succeeding.

That is offensive to many people. They donít want to hear someone like me say that they want to lose. Usually I get bombarded with a million justifications, most notably the excuses that run along the lines of ďI was outgunned! There was no way for me to win!Ē Losers that believe that deserve the label. There is no situation, problem, or player that cannot be overcome with the correct training, planning and execution.

The only thing that separates you from Johnny Archer is the absence of mistakes on his part(and uncanny natural ability). Somewhere along the line, he was at your level. He dealt with the same frustrations and obstacles that you are currently dealing with. Johnny Archer wants to win, and creates an environment for himself that leads to his success instead of his failure. He has good days and bad days. He has had great matches and some heíd like to forget about. Thatís okay, because Johnny is a positive sponge with a great support system within and around himself. Compare yourself to a player of his caliber. Where does your attitude measure up? I donít have you do this to depress you, I do it to show you a classic example of channeling both positive and negative occurrences.

Feed The Panther

In the book Stroke of Genius I wrote about Feeding the Right Beast. I used the story of an Indian friend of mine that was an amazing person both at and away from the table. Johnny Blackwolf explained to me his outlook by telling me how he views two beasts that dwell inside of him. One is the rattlesnake. The rattlesnake represents everything that is negative. The negative reactions and thoughts feed the snake until he is stronger. Also inside is the panther. The panther represents his strength,. Determination and overall positive outlook. Johnny explained to me how he fed one and starved the other. Whichever beast was stronger, reacted when he was put to the test.

When transferring this over to our actions and reactions at the table, we can all see where we have very healthy rattlesnakes, and weak, malnourished panthers. I recommend that we all establish this type of outlook and choose an animal that represents our inner positive qualities, and our inner negative qualities.

Choose an animal very carefully. If you choose a rattlesnake and a bunny rabbit, chances are, your bunny rabbit wonít do very well. I have had students use everything from tigers, lions and bears (oh my), to gorillas, wolves, eagles, and owls. Hamsters and poodles usually donít do very well.

After you choose these symbolic animals, it is important to remain conscious of how each pop up in different circumstances. I have used the panther for many years now. I am still surprised at how often the rattlesnake lashes out from time to time - both at and away from the table. It is important to realize that you can use this in every day life as well as at the pool table. You can practice this constantly. The more you practice this, the more aware you will be of your positive and negative reactions.

It is very important to know what to feed your panther. If you feed him nothing but negativity, heíll become more vicious that your rattlesnake. You must make sure that your panther is fed with positive experiences and positive action. Start keeping a list of what you feed your panther and what you feed your rattlesnake. It may sound silly, but this is the first step in turning your attitude around. Once you know the diets of each, you can virtually create your own reality, create your own positive situations, and channel the negative and positive more effectively.

Where negativity comes from

Chiefly, I will focus on the fact that negativity comes from unmet expectations. It could be that your abilities did not live up to your expectations, or people and situations did not live up to your expectations. Expectations can be realistic, or unrealistic, and usually they are very unrealistic when it comes to our abilities.

One of the most important things that you can do with expectations is to set limits. We take an honest look at our abilities and mark off boundaries. We set marks for what is acceptable and unacceptable. Once these parameters are set, we now have a pre-set benchmark for what we call negative and what we call positive. We know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in accordance with our abilities, our attitude and our preparation. If we are unrealistic in our expectations, we tend to view everything that goes wrong as negative and we react negatively. Setting boundaries in our areas of acceptability shows us where we need to concentrate our efforts, and how we can change negative occurrences into positive growth. Areas of acceptability vary from player to player, but this is also an excellent tool to use for personal responsibility.

Negative behavior breeds best in a player that is unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions at the table. This occurs when we blame the table roll for our defeat instead of adapting to the conditions. We can either deflect the blame to the table roll, or we can look at our failure to properly and effectively adapt to the playing conditions. One leads to growth, the other keeps us where we are at.

Filing negativity where it belongs

Negativity has its place. Positive and negative energy use each other to survive. I am a firm believer that at the start of every match, there are 100 negativity points to be won, and 100 positivity points to be won. I just need to do my best to make sure that I donít become a negativity hog. Pig out on the positive during competition. Iím not saying that we should all float on pink clouds to the point that we are comatose, Iím just saying that we are what we focus on. Many players are gluttons for negativity and donít even know it. You see it in their body language, their facial expressions, and their attitude. The way to recognize and deal with negativity is to make sure you donít file the negative occurrence in the positive file.

An example of this is something that I see all the time in every pool hall Iíve ever been in. You watch a guy shooting and he misses and easy shot. The cue ball hides itself behind another object ball, keeping his opponent from having a clear shot. The player ignores that he got a lucky safe, and proceeds to go to his chair and mentally batter himself over missing the easy shot. 9 times our 10, he comes to the table with ball in hand still angry about missing the earlier shot. He will either miss the ball in hand shot, or mess up his position further into the rack, but heíll let the missed shot affect his performance throughout that game and perhaps the rest of the match.

Mistakes should be dealt with, but not dealt with like that. You should deal with that error after the match. Forget about it. It happened, itís over, and you are back at the table. Take advantage of the opportunity you have in front of you and forget all of the negative occurrences that happened before. Itís easier to read that than to do it, but if you follow through on this, you will see a definite change in your win/loss percentage and your attitude at the table. When the match is over, look at the errors and blunders and deal with them accordingly. DO NOT DEAL WITH YOUR DEFICIENCIES WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO WIN THE MATCH. You will become distracted and taken off course, and you will lose, trust me.

Garbage in - Garbage out

This is an old computer term, but it translates over beautifully to pool. If you allow garbage to seep into your consciousness, such as negative comments, mistakes, and errors, than you will put out garbage. If you surround yourself with negative people, you will become negative as well. Negative thoughts breed negative action. Positive thought breeds positive action.

Listening without hearing

Some people just need to be ignored. That may sound harsh, but it is true. There are many players that are not as happy-go-lucky as you and your friends. They are mean-spirited and very negative. They have nothing positive to say about anything and anybody, and they are everywhere at tournaments and leagues. Some will approach you and start griping about how they lost the last game, or how they got screwed, or how the other guy was a jerk. This leads to complaining about almost everything in the room. Stay away and donít participate. Usually, youíll chime in and point out some negative things you have seen. Remember, negativity is everywhere, but you DO NOT have to become a part of it. Usually, in situations like that, you can usually take it from the source. If the person is negative, chances are that he will introduce you to someone that is just as or even more negative than he is. This is pretty funny when you are conscious of it. Just be aware and learn how to manage it.

Good Luck & God Bless